A $25 Million Mistake

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Author: Mr. Avrohom Weinstock, Esq.

Chief of Staff, Agudath Israel of America

Mistakes happen. Most mistakes, though, don’t cost $25 million. A seemingly small misread of the Smart School Bond Act (almost!) cost our yeshivos millions in lost technology equipment.

Back in 2014, the SSBA authorized $2 billion for NYS public schools. Private schools could also receive technology equipment, based on the amount spent by public schools on classroom technology. But the private school allotment was oddly low. Why? Sitting at my kitchen table, through the early hours of the morning, scouring legal documents and a 200-page tech purchase order, I googled every product code to understand where the money was going.

Eventually it became clear. NYC was systematically misclassifying one type of device which should have been considered classroom technology. Some sleuthing revealed that another district purchased the same devices, classified as classroom technology. I had the bones of a legal brief. Baruch Hashem for coffee!

The ramifications of this mistake were huge, but convincing others would be the real challenge. One legal brief, dozens of emails and meetings with top city and state officials, and 5 years later, government was persuaded to give our yeshivos their rightful share. Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, Mrs. Deborah Zachai, Rabbi Yeruchim Silber, Rabbi Ami Bazov, myself and Agudah’s coalition partners would not stop until it did. An additional $25 million was awarded to account for the misclassification.

I now know more than I ever wanted to know about boring devices (I’m looking at you, Cisco Model 3600!), but the knowledge that our schools and children are receiving the equipment they deserve gives me chizuk to keep fighting the good fight.

There’s power in numbers. We need to raise ours, to lend political clout to our advocates, faithfully lobbying our causes in the halls of power. We need to count in order to matter.

Join the Agudah’s Machatzis HaShekel Campaign as echod min haminuyim; join the ranks so the Agudah can continue championing our values and fighting for the klal and the yochid. 

Yasher Koach.

Avrohom Weinstock